Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Wolf Gift--chapter four

So editing on the fourth Starbleached installment is going well. Due to this being summer and work going OMFG THE BRITISH TOURISTS ARE COMING THE BRITISH TOURISTS ARE COMING I think I'm doing rather well getting things done. This summer is basically going to be Work Till I Drop on all fronts, and I really hope I can pull it all off.

So. On to the Wolf Gift.

So I actually think that RF had a good point the other day. Maybe Rice is building Ruben up for a great disasterous fall from grace. Maybe this story will be about an obnoxious little shit redeeming himself from being an obnoxious little shit. I still have that hope, but...well...

“They will not tell me what happened!” he roared at his mother, who at once demanded that the police come and give him the answers he was entitled to have.
It's shrinking. Fast.

Yeah, the police have Ruben handcuffed to the gurney.  Marchant's death is handled offscreen with an infodump via Ruben's girlfriend. Yes. The girlfriend he cheated on is the person his family goes to for info on what, exactly, happened in the World's Perfect Mansion.

Ruben needs to officially die in a fire.

But he could still get better. Wikus van de Merwe was an unlikable piece of shit throughout most of District 9 and that made his heel-face turn fucking awesome. Let's hold out hope, my friends. Let us hold out hope.

So when he finally wakes up for good, a cop asks him if he had sex with Marchant. He says yes, and submits to a DNA test because he knew his semen would come up in autopsy. He didn't remember making a 911 call but said call was made via his phone, and somebody muttered "murder, murder" into the phone, so he must have made a 911 call. And I hope you like that summery, because that's about the same delivery, sans Rice's graceful, pretentious prose.

And of course his beautiful girlfriend Celeste is right there by his side, and she hasn't brought up his infidelity yet.

I want ring side seating when that conversation goes down.

So. Now we're going to get the unavoidable "Ruben Is Suspected Of Killing Marchant" subplot, wherein he is innocent and must prove his innocence, and cannot because somebody is pulling strings behind the scene, and so a'la Richard Kimball must go on a long escapade involving werewolf safehouses and--

Twenty-four hours later, when he was moved to a private room, Celeste brought the news that the killers had been Marchent’s younger brothers. She was powerfully energized by the perfectly outrageous story.

Are. You. Shitting. Me.

GOD DAMN IT ANNE! This was a subplot that would at least justify the superhero plot I can see coming from three miles away AND YOU ARE THROWING IT AWAY BECAUSE YOU CANNOT STAND THE TENSION OF RUBEN BEING IN TROUBLE.

Look. I hate that subplot. I hate it with passion and fire and loathing beyond belief. I hate it in every movie I see it in. Mostly because I cannot stand that kind of tension at all. But from a writer's pov? BRING IT. THE FUCK. ON. Yes. It's cliche. Un-cliche it somehow. You're a writer. You can do it.

But no. We toss the only source of tension that exists in this book so far. We've gone from flatlined real-estate plot to SUDDEN! RANDOM! ATTACK! to "oh, her brothers did it, you're off the hook. Natch."

Also? Nobody gives a shit about the random animal that killed Marchant's brothers and bit Ruben on the face. Because it's just a random man-eating mountain lion/other LARGE predator that just randomly walked into a human residence and ate two people. 

Yes. They were bad people. It still ate them. 

Ruben wonders why the beast left him alive... And then Ruben's mom, the world class doctor, says this.

“If it was rabid, it was behaving erratically,”
Uh...yeah. I'm sorry. If I were a doctor and my child had been bitten by a kitten in an area known for rabies, my child would be getting the prophylaxis treatments long before this conversation even began. Because, as Ms. Rice is so kind to point out:

Rabies was almost uniformly fatal once the symptoms presented. There was no choice but to treat for rabies at once.
Except you waited a couple days to start giving him the treatment. Gee, Ruben's Mom, that was real careful of you.

Ruben now has survivors guilt for outliving Marchant. This is a perfectly reasonable reaction, and I can't critize it.

...UNLESS this is "OH, HOW I LOVED MARCHANT" in which case Ms. Rice needs to tone the melodrama down a little bit.

And then...uh...

More medication. More painkillers. More antibiotics. Reuben lost track of the days.
That's probably the laziest. transistion of time. EVER. I mean...couldn't we at least have had some kind of scene and/or chapter break? That reads like thirty seconds pass, not days. We either need more text, or we need a handful of short, choppy scene breaks.

Or, you know, we skip to the part where Ruben gets out of the hosptial and things actually start happening to him again.

And of course Ruben hears his mom talking about how much her son is -GASP!- changing behind their back. Because in a werewolf book we need to go through that whole "period between bite and first full moon" in a handful of quickly summerized paragraphs. That's absolutely the best way to handle it. Too bad we wasted the first two chapters on Ruben's relationship with a dead woman, because all those words would be really useful here.

And OF COURSE he's the hottest patient on the ward, and OF COURSE we need to know this.

This is how ALL The plot-related threads have been handled so far in this chapter:

Speculation about the mysterious animal continued. Couldn’t Reuben remember anything else, asked his editor Billie Kale, the feminine genius behind the San Francisco Observer. She stood beside his bed.
 “Honestly, no,” Reuben said, pushing hard against the drugs to look and sound alert.
Couldn't you give another character a couple lines of dialogue?

Oh, right. "Honestly, no."

Well, the reporters DID break the news about Ruben's infidelity to Celeste. And now they're going to fight about it, rig--oh, who the fuck am I kidding. It's handwaved away too:

“It’s not that bad,” she said. “Well, just forget that part.” She comforted him, as if he was the one who’d been wronged.
Ruben is obviously the only person in this book with feels. Let us accept this and move on.

Oh, but it gets worse. OH MY GOD. IT GETS WORSE. See, one week after the killing Ruben finds out that Marchant willed the house to him. 

She’d done this about an hour before she died, speaking with her San Francisco lawyers about it by phone, and faxing several signed documents to them, one of which had been witnessed by Felice, confirming her verbal instructions that the house should go to Reuben Golding, and that she would bear the full cost of gift taxes on the transfer, which would leave Reuben in possession free and clear. She’d arranged for twelve months’ prepaid taxes and insurance.
Here is the timeline for the story so far:

-Marchant meets Ruben
-Marchant gives Ruben the World's Longest Tour of the World's Perfect Mansion.
-Ruben elects to buy the house.
-NOT KNOWING THAT SHE IS ABOUT TO DIE IN (I SHIT YOU NOT) SEVEN MINUTES Marchant calls her lawyer and alters her will to leave the house she wants to sell to a kid who wants to buy it.

Thank GOD she did that, because otherwise the World's Perfect Mansion would be all tied up in probate court and Ruben would have to live in some lesser dwelling unfit for his godly manly manwolfy-ness.

And no. The cops don't suspect a thing, because "Everyone knows" you can't bite yourself on the face with a werewolf. EVERYTHING SOLVED!

And then Ruben starts halucinating in the hospital. Okay, everybody knows his hearing just got dialed up to werewolf, but still...this is so...uh, not riviting.

And then Celeste emphasizes again that she doesn't care about him sleeping with a strange woman less than an hour before she died. Oh, but she does this wearing the ruby bracelet he gave her. Okay. That explains it.

Oh, and, uh...Ms. Rice? You know how you went on and on and ON AND ON about how you don't need an editor?

That woods was his now.

I'm leaving that there. You know. For now.

So Mom is freaking about about Ruben being better and how the hosptial keeps losing his test results. I guess because there isn't a check mark for "Werewolf." You know, Jacob's transition in New Moon wasn't this fucking bland or clueless, and that was from the girl's perspective.

Seriously. Nobody reading this book believes that Ruben has rabies. Rice is famous for writing vampires, this book was waved around as a return to form, and it's got a wolf on the cover. There is only one possible solution. 

 And then Ruben goes home to write, and we get Anne Rice's idea of what writing should be like. In which you apparently write for five hours and then e-mail your boss the first draft. So in other words, from her POV it's completely accurate. Oh, but he wants his boss to "cut where she needs to". Because editors totally do that.

Yeah. Writer-readers? If your editor cuts shit out of your book, as opposed to redlining it and letting you do it? Find another editor. 

 And then Ruben makes an offer on the contents of the house, so that he can keep all the nicnacks and fancy papers. And his lawyer tries to talk him out of it. But he won't be talked out of it. And then this happens:

Not like me to talk like that, is it, he thought. But he hadn’t been rude, really, just eager to advance the plot.


And then--I guess because Marchant's lawyers were all like "Okay sure" instead of "We don't know what you're talking about" Ruben sneaks out of his house, runs along the beach, walks into a random bar, orders a coke, and attempts to pick a fight with the ugliest guy there. Who shrugs and leaves in a "What's your problem, meth-head" kind of way.

Ruben follows

...Yeah. Anne? Stan Lee called. He'd like Spiderman's origin story back now, thanks.

So he beats the snot out of the thug, for some reason, and then goes back home. Mom is freaking out because he was gone, he's freaking out a little tiny bit (VERY little) because he beat the snot out of Random Dude and OH YEAH HIS HANDS ARE NOW TOO BIG.

He has a conversation with his brother the Catholic Priest (OH GOD I FORGOT ANNE RICE HAS RELIGION NOW) (I don't mind religious books. I love religious books. I hate religious books where the religion got shoehorned in and left there by mistake) and drops heavy hints that he's developed the ability to sense evil just by looking at bad people.

...right. And in the real world, we call that a psychotic break.

This chapter is never going to fucking end.

So Ruben has flashbacks to the murder--this is, again, perfectly normal, understandable, and borderline good writing--and then we fastforward to when Ruben's lawyer and Marchant's people decide to sell Ruben all the house's contents. That was quick.

His family discusses how much he's changed .His family discusses how he should sell the house. Pretensious conversations about evil happen. Again--heavy hints that Ruben can now sense evil by looking at it.

The chapter finally ends with Ruben freaking out his girlfriend by being confident, and with his nurse giving him his last rabies shot.

Well...maybe he'll be actively cool as a werewolf?


  1. So to recap...

    Pretty-special soul-of-a-poet boy shows up on the doorstep of a rich older woman and they have sex. The sex is so amazing that she immediately calls her lawyers to leave her house to him. Her drug-addict brothers who need her to send them money then break into her house after the life-changing sex and kill her, because murdering your meal-ticket is the obvious way to keep the cash flowing. Then a rabid animal shows up and kills the brothers and runs away. And the rest of her family in no way challenges this story or the change in her will literally minutes before she's murdered.

    Anne, there are easier ways to get your protagonist into a big old mansion where he can brood. I'm just saying.

  2. I just finished Ch.8 last night. My prediction/hope has yet to come to pass :C Still time/space in the novel yet though I suppose...

    1. I have to give you huge credit. I do not have the patience to slog through more than one chapter of this at a time.

      In fact, I think the last time I had this much trouble paying attention to a book was one of the later Sword of Truth books, after they introduced Richard's Deus Ex Half-Sister (and long after the Chicken of Doom). I got halfway through it before I realized I'd rather sever my arms with a paper cut than keep reading it.

  3. Okay I missed a couple of points before.

    So when he finally wakes up for good, a cop asks him if he had sex with Marchant. He says yes, and submits to a DNA test because he knew his semen would come up in autopsy.

    Holy shit they had unprotected sex? After knowing each other for maybe half an hour?

    she would bear the full cost of gift taxes on the transfer, which would leave Reuben in possession free and clear. She’d arranged for twelve months’ prepaid taxes and insurance.

    Reuben can do push-ups on his tongue and has a prehensile penis. It's the only explanation.


  4. You know, I still have all the self-indulgent stuff I wrote when I was sixteen, and I am pretty sure that if I dig it up it won't be nearly this contrived.

    That woods was his now.

    It's clearly "Them woods was his now." Get it right, Anne :)

    1. I think the worst thing I ever wrote was either the very first thing I ever wrote (that started out about dragons and ended with a Belgarion-esque female protagonist who was a long-lost shapeshifting elf queen made of glass) (...I have no idea.) Or the beauty-and-the-beast retelling that involved a desert palace and a lot of lattus work and enough pretty dresses to make the House of Worth vomit from overkill.

      Then I figured out that the protagonist doesn't need to own ALL the shiny objects.

      I was twelve.

      Anne Rice is seventy. Enough said.

  5. More shit what slipped by me at first.

    The chapter finally ends with Ruben freaking out his girlfriend by being confident,

    He is Reuben, Famous The Journalist. How the hell can he lack confidence? How does a twenty-three year old fresh-faced college grad take down gangs with his reporting while lacking confidence?